A loss to Georgia, 41-0. Another loss to Alabama, this time 45-7. Those are the numbers that will linger over Butch Jones’ head long after he’s gone from Knoxville. Not to mention a 63-yard Hail Mary allowed vs. SEC rival Florida, a 9-point offensive effort vs. South Carolina and a 17-13 embarrassment of a win against UMass on Rocky Top.
Were it not for a well-defended 2-point conversion attempt against Georgia Tech in Week 1, the Tennessee Volunteers would still be in search of their first Power-5 win of the season.
The number that will undoubtedly hurt the most: Official attendance at Neyland Stadium on Nov. 4, when only the poorest of souls will bother getting into their vehicles and travel to watch their Vols do battle with Southern Miss.
It could be worse, of course. They could be Arkansas fans.
Bret Bielema’s Hogs suffered through another awful home loss, this one by 32 points to Auburn. When the Razorbacks get hit, they get hit hard. Saturday was the team’s sixth loss by three touchdowns or more in the past 365 days.
Regional and national columnists are going for the kill this weekend, and rightfully so. Expectations are nothing personal; they’re abnormal side effects of abnormal jobs that — for better or worse — place these men on pedestals and then tear them down when their programs go the least bit sideways. It’s similar to politics — if we gave politicians millions of dollars in state money and then forced them to prove their worth in front of a national audience every Saturday.
The comforting aspect here is that Jones and Bielema will land on their feet. Jones dragged Central Michigan and Cincinnati to top-25 finishes before he arrived in Knoxville, and Bielema was a three-time Rose Bowl participant at Wisconsin.
They’ll be OK. They’ll probably win again. But not in Knoxville or Fayetteville.
LSU … wants ‘Bama?
Three weeks ago, we were talking about Ed Orgeron’s buyout clause. Now, we’re talking about LSU’s somewhat reasonable chances of pulling off an upset against No. 1 Alabama. In this case, “somewhat reasonable” means “the spread probably won’t stretch past two touchdowns,” but allow Tigers fans to dream a little bit.
They’ve won three games in a row, including an upset of No. 10 Auburn, and appear to be — more or less — at full strength. LSU beat writer Alex Hickey wrote that running back Derrius Guice and linebacker Arden Key, perhaps the team’s two best players, are reaching their ceilings at the perfect time.
Guice was particularly thrilling in a big win at Ole Miss this weekend. He needed just 22 carries to run for 279 yards. Key was at “1,000 percent,” per defensive tackle Greg Gilmore.
“In two weeks,” Hickey wrote, “the same combination can give the Tigers a glimmer of hope.”
Pour one out for Shea
One of the SEC’s most exciting players is done for the season. Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson tore his posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) against LSU, played on it in the second half, and will now be forced to watch the rest of the Rebels season from the sideline.
Patterson, a true sophomore, has produced plenty of brilliant moments during his young career. He currently leads the SEC in passing with 2,259 yards this season and is second to Missouri’s Drew Lock with 17 touchdown passes.
His absence is great news for Arkansas, which travels to Ole Miss next weekend in search of its first conference win. But it’s even worse news for the Rebels, who are now without their star player — really, their only ray of hope — for the final five games.
Building the résumé
Georgia’s 20-19 win over Notre Dame looks better and better each week. The Fighting Irish destroyed USC on Saturday night, thrusting Brian Kelly’s team back into the College Football Playoff race. Our own Connor Riley wrote that the Bulldogs’ September triumph in South Bend is now the most impressive win of the 2017 season.
Here’s my ranking of the top-5 thus far (winning team must be current Top-25 member):
- Oklahoma over Ohio State in Columbus (31-16)
- TCU over Oklahoma State in Stillwater (44-31)
- Clemson over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg (31-17)
- Notre Dame over USC in South Bend (49-14)
- Georgia over Notre Dame in South Bend (20-19)
RIP Pac-12 playoff hopes
USC’s blowout loss at Notre Dame effectively knocked the Trojans out of the playoff race, and put the Pac-12 Conference’s hopes on life support. There are now only two teams with a realistic shot at the national four-team field: Washington and Washington State. Both have one loss, and one of them is assured of a second loss following their meeting in late November. The odds of the victor winning the rest of their games, too? Low.
Here’s what else caught our eye in Week 8
Jarrett Stidham’s 15-yard touchdown dash against Arkansas was aided by a faked injury from Hogs defensive lineman McTelvin Agim. Not a good look:
— Barstool Auburn (@WarDamnStool) October 21, 2017
Missouri avoided another Homecoming upset loss, throttling Idaho 68-21 behind 6 touchdown passes by Drew Lock, who now leads the SEC with 23 passing scores.
Most Halves with 5 Pass TD
SEC QBs Last 10 Seasons
Drew Lock 3 (including today)
All others 2 pic.twitter.com/ee5YpWcckO
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 21, 2017
Penn State fans enjoyed a blowout win over Michigan so much that they broke out in a “WE WANT BAMA” chant. This is typically not a good idea, especially when you have the No. 6 team in the country coming to town next Saturday.
— BetOnline.ag (@betonline_ag) October 22, 2017